In another victim-blaming win for the patriarchy, Missouri lawmakers suggested fighting harassment with intern dress codes. Several Missouri state legislators have faced scrutiny for sexually harassing statehouse interns, and the immediate response of said powerful government officials was to imply that interns are not dressing appropriately. Although Missouri is not especially known for being the most feminist state, this is a low blow.
Missouri Democrats immediately disapproved of the idea, and House Speaker Todd Richardson released a statement saying that the dress code would not come into fruition. Still, the fact that this plan got so much traction points at how victims of harassment are blamed instead of the officials who often take advantage. The Kansas City Star talked to dozens of female interns, staff, lobbyists, and lobbyists who reported that "a culture of sexual harassment" exists in the Missouri Capitol. And the problem doesn't just relate to Missouri; a survey by the Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE) revealed that 54 percent of respondents had faced some form of workplace sexual harassment.
One Missouri intern claimed that she cut 22 inches of her hair because State Sen. Paul LeVota allegedly kept commenting on her hair and body, then she quit her five-month internship after about two months. Another intern came forward, and LeVota resigned in July. LeVota said he did not harass any interns and that there had been no proof of any wrongdoing found. In May, former Missouri House Speaker John Diehl resigned after sexual texts with a 19-year-old intern became public. That intern also ended her internship about a month early. Diehl said, "I have acknowledged making a serious error in judgment by sending the text messages. It was wrong and I am truly sorry."
After the speaker resigned, lawmakers began suggesting changes such as a G.P.A. requirement and minimum number of credit hours for the intern policy. And right away, Republicans began suggesting a dress code. Rep. Nick King said in an email to his colleagues, according to The Kansas City Star, "We need a good, modest, conservative dress code for both the males and females. Removing one more distraction will help everyone keep their focus on legislative matters.”
The idea that women in the workplace are only distractions is an incredibly outdated and sexist premise that should have been cast out from government halls centuries ago. Fortunately, women aren't completely alone in the Missouri government.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, who has a record of supporting feminist legislation, officially condemned the notion, sending a letter to the lawmaker who originally proposed it that said it, "reeks of a desire to avoid holding fully accountable those who would prey upon young women and men seeking to begin honorable careers in public service."
Once again, we have proof that modern American society condemns the victims of sexual violence and harassment. Women live in a country that judges them for what they wear and even for simply doing their jobs.